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  • Writer's pictureDr. Cassandra Paiano, ND

Top Tips for a Strong Immune System

Fall is officially here!

'Tis the season for pumpkin spice, and everything nice.

'Tis also the season for sweater weather, and the cold and flu.

We understand the importance of heading into this season with a robust immune system - which is why we put this guide together for you!

1. Vitamin D Testing

Vitamin D, also referred to as the sunshine vitamin, is an essential nutrient that has several important functions in the body. Inadequate vitamin D levels have been linked to a myriad of health concerns such as osteoporosis, heart disease, certain cancers, endocrine dysfunction, neurological conditions, and depression.

Vitamin D plays an important role in immune health - and is required for the immune system to function optimally. It helps build immunity and helps to fight off infections by regulating the activity of specialized immune cells, which elicit antiviral responses and fight infections.

Since vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, there is a risk for toxicity. Thus the only way to ensure adequate levels, and safe dosing is via lab testing.

2. Get 8 Hours of Sleep

Sleep provides essential support to the immune system. Good quality, and restorative sleep allows for the immune system to function at full capacity. During sleep, our bodies produce specialized proteins, called cytokines, which target infection and inflammation - creating an immune response.

Individuals that don't get 8 hours of sleep each night, or those that don't get restorative sleep, are vulnerable to frequent colds, and have difficulty fighting off infections. Thus chronic sleep deprivation and poor quality sleep weakens the immune system.

Set a bedtime and develop a bedtime routine, and stick with it during the cool, dark nights ahead of us. Ensure your room is completely dark (as even a small amount of light can offset sleep), and avoid screen time in the evenings.

3. Eat Whole Foods

It is highly unlikely that individual foods offer special immune protection, however certain dietary patterns may better prepare the body for microbial attacks and inflammation.

Eating a well balanced diet, with a focus on whole foods offers the appropriate macronutrients and micronutrients that are required for optimal immune function. In addition, a fiber-rich diet, high in fruits and vegetables, legumes, protein and healthy fats also supports the gut microbiome - a major site of immune activity.

A diet high in processed foods and sugar lacks the nutrients necessary for immune function, disturbs the microbiome, and leads to chronic inflammation suppressed immunity.

4. Exercise

Research suggests that regular physical activity plays a role in keeping you healthy, and preventing illnesses.

Exercise stimulates immunity by increasing the circulation of immune cells, enhancing immune defence activity = earlier detection, and a more robust immune response. Exercise also raises body temperature - a brief rise in body temperature may prevent bacterial growth and stimulates the immune cells; similarly to how a fever works. Exercise also reduces inflammation, improves sleep, and reduces stress - all of which are important factors that keep the immune system in check.

However, an important caveat is that the frequency, duration and intensity matters! Research suggests moderate-intensity exercise is best. Prolonged, high-intensity training, without appropriate rest periods can actually suppress your immune system.

5. Reduce Stress Levels

Research suggests that individuals that have chronically elevated stress levels are more susceptible to infection.

This is because stress increases cortisol, aka "the stress hormone". Chronic elevations in cortisol decreases immune cells (lymphocytes), causes digestive disturbances, increases inflammation, increases heart rate and disrupts cellular communication, translating into a weakened immune system and increased vulnerability to viruses and infections.

Set aside 5-10 minutes each day to check-in with yourself, practice breathing techniques, and book an appointment at Kingsway Wellness!

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